TURKEY: The Burial of Ataturk

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At five minutes past 9 one morning last week, in the capital city of Ankara, a bugler blew a blast, and all over the nation's 296,000 square miles, 21 million Turks stood motionless for five minutes. Only the delayed shriek of jet formations broke the silence. Then cannon began to boom at five-minute intervals as Kemal Ataturk, the Father of the Turks—dead 15 years this day—began his last voyage.

His remains were taken from the Ethnographic Museum, reverently laid on an artillery caisson, and drawn by 138 young reserve officers in a procession that stretched for two miles. Behind a military band playing Chopin's Funeral March slowly marched 80,000 Turks, including the President, the Premier, every Cabinet minister, every parliamentary deputy, every provincial governor and every foreign diplomat. Many of the 7,000 marching Turkish soldiers wore their Korean war decorations. Ten generals and two admirals escorted the coffin, while another admiral guarded a velvet cushion which bore the Medal of Independence, the only decoration Ataturk ever wore.

After 3½ hours, the procession reached the top of a hill overlooking Ankara—the modern city built by Ataturk—and stopped before a square-pillared mausoleum, set in a 148-acre park. Up 33 marble steps, each 132 feet wide, went the procession, along floors of multicolored marble, past statues and buttresses inscribed with Ataturk's maxims and bas-reliefs depicting his victories—until it halted at a 42-ton sarcophagus carved from a single block of red, black and white marble. The sarcophagus was lit only by the light from a huge wrought-iron window.

There last week, covered with earth from each of Turkey's 64 provinces, the Father of the Turks finally came to rest. His grateful people had spent $12 million and labored nine years to build their tribute to the dictator who modernized his ancient land and bequeathed it democracy (TIME, Oct. 12). An elderly officer standing by spoke quietly to a friend: "I was on active duty during his funeral, when I shed bitter tears at the finality of death. Today I am not sad, for 15 years have taught me that Ataturk will never die."